Why State erred by dismantling TVETs exam and certification body

EDUCATION |

Education CS George Magoha. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

On October 2, 2021, The Standard reported that the Ministry of Education had completed plans to dismantle the Curriculum Development Assessment and Certification Council (CDACC).

This is the Government body tasked with the development of all Technical Education Curriculum in Kenya and overseeing competency-based assessment.

It is the kind of story you read and then pause to confirm if it is April Fools Day already. What? Why? Whose idea is this? 

Apparently, someone thinks it's a great idea. We learn that the campaign of dismantling CDACC has been underway since 2014 and has only come to fruition now after a  task force gave its report to the CS for Education.

This decision is not only backward; it is wrong-headed. One that will have negative ramifications on our skills sector for years to come. 

For people who may not appreciate the real damage such a move will cause to the realisation of our youth’s aspirations to secure skills and employment, some recent history may help.

After many years of ignoring Technical Education, at the expense of Basic and University Education, the Government finally saw the light in 2013. That was when the journey to reform the entire TVET sector, to make it work for Kenya’s development was started.

The most important first step was the passage of the TVET Act of 2013, a law that aimed to streamline technical education along the lines of the best practices in the World.

To do this, the TVET Act created four agencies, each assigned a different role in TVET. These are TVETA, responsible for sector regulation and quality assurance, KNQA, the qualifications authority, TVET Fund, for resource mobilisation, and CDACC for TVET curriculum and assessment.

After years of delay, three of these bodies were finally set up. The TVET Fund has seen the light of day. And now we learn that the plan of destroying CDACC started the very next year after the TVET law was passed.

How do you explain this contradictory behaviour? 

Does anybody care that over 5 million youth today have no meaningful skills to join the labour market? [File, Standard]

Government officials never pass an opportunity to remind us how much they love the youth and how important they think TVET is to development. And here they are dismantling the institutions that could actually make TVET work. 

Perhaps the answer to this question was indicated in the same article. The key functions of the late CDACC are to be hived off to the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) and the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC). 

Interpretation; this is a fight for power among government bureaucracies, one blessed by the CS himself, after all, he appointed the task force whose report he has now accepted. 

In this war, the real long-term interests of the nation or indeed the youth are secondary.

The article did not tell us what will happen to the Competency-Based Education and Training (CBET) framework, one of the most far-reaching efforts to reform the way TVET is done in Kenya.

CBET is to TVET what CBC is to the rest of our education system. CDACC has been working to embed this important framework in TVET delivery, despite many constraints including funding starvation.

What will happen to CBET now? Will it be hived off to yet another favoured bureaucracy or abandoned to wither at the vine?

What about the development of competency-based assessment? Are we to understand that KNEC will now, miraculously, acquire the capacity to implement competency-based assessment, after having failed many times in the past?

 We are reminded often that Kenya should aspire to be counted among the best in Education and Development Globally. Most of the Developed Counties we aim to copy have dedicated Ministries committed to skills delivery. In Kenya, TVET is a minor department in the Mega Ministry of Education, a despised orphan that receives less than ten per cent of the mother Ministry’s budget.

CS Magoha (R) has been quoted many times this year lauding TVET to the youth, to parents, and even his fellow government functionaries. [File, Standard]

 We should be working to set up a well-resourced ministry for skills delivery if we are serious about tackling the youth unemployment problem in Kenya. Instead, we are plotting to Kenya backwards. 

 What exactly is wrong with us?

The Education CS, Magoha, has been quoted many times this year lauding TVET to the youth, to parents, and even his fellow government functionaries. How then do we explain this two-faced behaviour, saying all the right words in public even as he cuts the most important TVET branch from under him?

What about the young people? Does anybody care that over 5 million youth today are jobless because they have no meaningful skills to join the labour market?

The strange thing is that we have many examples to learn from, about the importance of prioritising skills training to achieve development. 

Take that often quoted example of Singapore and South Korea. The two nations were at a similar GDP level to Kenya at our independence. How did they become developed nations in little more than a generation, while we continue to languish in the depths of backwardness?

They focused on human capital development, with a key priority being to provide market-ready skills for the majority of their people. China did the same. Rwanda, next door, which often takes its policy cues from Kenya, is doing the same.

Ndung’u Kahihu is the co-author of ‘How to Make TVET Work for Kenya.

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